Growing up as a first generation British-born Chinese with Hong Kong heritage, I was inevitably exposed to some form of Hong Kong cinema in one way or another.
One of my fondest childhood memory was being woken up by my parents after they had closed up our family take-away to watch Jackie Chan’s Police Story together which was on Channel 4 late one night. I was probably only 7 or 8 years old back then yet it wasn’t until very recently that I truly rekindled and realized my passion and love for Hong Kong cinema. Those years in-between were not years of inactivity to say the least for I still recall watching the likes of Bullet in the Head and A Better Tomorrow albeit at a less than appropriate age than their intended audience.
I began my journey into this rabbit hole by reading many blogs, articles, reviews and by naturally watching many movies. Slowly but surely I explored the wealth of movie magic my motherland had to offer. From classic Shaw Brothers’ wuxia (Chinese martial arts fantasy) epics, over the top tales of heroic bloodshed, surreal mou lei tau comedies to modern big budget Hollywood-inspired action-thrillers. Hong Kong cinema is by no means a completely foreign beast in the West. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are of course household names and certain action flicks such as Hard Boiled are generally well known cult classics.
Hong Kong’s influence in the wider world of cinema should not be underestimated either. The setting and story behind Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was largely inspired by Ringo Lam’s City on Fire. King Hu’s The Swordsman started the 90s wuxia revival which culminated in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon hitting the West, dazzling audiences with its physically impossible wire work and winning a number of Oscars in 2001 including Best Foreign Feature. Speaking of Academy Awards, you know that critically acclaimed Martin Scorsese’s crime thriller The Departed? That was basically a rehash of Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs.
One may initially think due to the language and culture barrier, Western audiences may find the accessibility of certain Hong Kong movies to be difficult. To be fair, this can be the case and the sometimes questionable subtitles do not help either. Nevertheless I’ve managed to introduce and win over a fair number of friends with the likes of Future Cops and Legendary Weapons of China, but more on those at a later date. I would say there are typically 3 noticeable differences between a bog standard Hollywood movie and one from Hong Kong. Namely the latter usually has more violence, melodrama and is less politically correct than the former. This results in viewers finding certain aspects of Hong Kong cinema rather uncomfortable, or at the other end of the spectrum and in my case, hilarious.
As a result, Hong Kong cinema is very unique and special in my eyes and given my heritage and upbringing, very personal. I feel it is almost my duty to expose its breadth and depth to a wider audience and will aim to do so with further pieces. Jackie Chan is just the tip of this very large iceberg to say the least.